Home    Number 5, 2016

O chem molchat veshchi

[What Things Conceal]

Type of publication: Research Article

About author(s)

Dmitriy A. Baranov | dmitry.baranov@list.ru | Russian Museum of Ethnography (St. Petersburg, Russia)


things, material culture studies, museum ethnography, sociology, representation, ethnographic object, technology, semantics, aesthetic interpretation


The article discusses the ethnographic approaches to the study of material culture and the place they have taken within the material turn that has been observed in sociology. The questioning of material objects, which became increasingly popular in the humanities in the 1980s, albeit revolutionary, was no novelty for anthropology. For the latter, it rather meant the return to the original understanding of ethnographic knowledge as knowledgefirst and foremost about things. Nonetheless, even today, approaching material culture in the conservative vein remains dominant in anthropology; and one can hardly expect that anthropologists are going to follow sociologists in acknowledging the equality of the subject and the object – the human being and the thing – in their rights. However,where anthropological approaches to the study of material objects are potentiallyinnovative today is in inquiring into the ways the objects are physically embodied. It is in this area, where the competence of sociology wanes, that anthropology can still make a strong point.


Baranov, D. A. 2016. O chem molchat veshchi [What Things Conceal]. Etnograficheskoe obozrenie 5: 25-39

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